Tiger snake

Notechis scutatus

SUBFAMILY

Hydrophiinae

TAXONOMY

Naja scutata Peters, 1861, Java (in error). The taxonomy is confused and in dispute. Two species are recognized, but considerable DNA evidence suggests that tiger snakes are a single highly variable species.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Tropical rat snake; French: Serpents tigrés; German: Tigerottern.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Average length is approximately 47 in (1.2 m) for most mainland individuals. Some island populations have giants that can reach nearly 79 in (2 m) and dwarfs that are shorter than 28 in (70 cm). The tiger snake is highly variable in color and pattern, ranging from light gray to brown to black with or without a banded pattern.

DISTRIBUTION

Southern and southeastern Australia. HABITAT

This snake's habitat is highly variable, but it is often found around moist areas near creeks and other bodies of water.

BEHAVIOR

The tiger snake is generally active during the day but becomes nocturnal on warm nights. Males sometimes engage in combat over females.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This snake has a varied diet. It preys on both reptiles and mammals, but frogs make up a large part of the diet of many populations. The island giants, such as the Chappell Island tiger snake, eat large prey, including mutton bird chicks and stick-nest rats.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This species is live-bearing. Females give birth to up to 30 young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The tiger snake is highly venomous. It is dangerous because it is often found in or near urban areas. The bite can be fatal, but the death rate has decreased owing to the availability of antivenin and widespread knowledge of the Sutherland pressure-immobilization technique. ♦

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